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Ambode’s performance will be a landmark in Lagos’ history –Steve Ayorinde

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How would you describe your experience in the public sector?

I would say that it has been smooth because my first posting was at the Ministry of Information and Strategy which is my turf due to my background as a journalist. Also, before the cabinet was formed, I had spent about six months with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode as the governor-elect. I handled communication and publicity for him. That was an advantage because I ran his publicity and media relations while he was an aspirant, a candidate and also as the governor-elect before he was later made the governor. Not only did I have the opportunity to speak for him and ‘curate’ his public profile, I was also part of the think-tank that worked on a few areas that we thought would be impactful to the state, especially as it concerned tourism, arts, entertainment, and sport. If you recall, part of what he campaigned with was project THEAS, which stands for tourism, hospitality, arts and sport. So my transition was smooth.

How did you meet Ambode?

He was like a big brother that I knew from afar simply because he was a big brother to a few close friends that I had. When I was the Editor of The Punch, he was the accountant general and the few friends that I knew, who were close to him always spoke about him glowingly. They always said that he was a brilliant accountant that had an abiding interest in the arts and it was a thing of interest to me. I knew of him as the accountant general and someone who was central to assisting Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when the funds of Lagos State were seized by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The state had to be creative in generating revenue in order for it to survive. He did so well that when he was accountant general, the money generated within the state rose from N600m monthly to about N6bn and ever since then, it has been on the rise.

He was a father figure to some artistes and from his own money, he would help them. There was a popular female musician at the time that was notorious for her kind of lyrics in a creative way. She did an album titled, ‘Olori Ebi’, which means the head of the family in Yoruba. Later, I got to know that the Olori Ebi that she was referring to was Governor Ambode. He was the one that helped St Janet. He bought her the instruments she required and set her up. There are other artistes who owe their rise and success stories to him, for instance, MI and Ice Prince. I had the privilege of attending some of their album launches and it was made possible courtesy of the governor’s intervention. I like the fact that he was always in the background but he genuinely loves entertainment, arts, creativity, and sports. We share the same interest in a particular team. It was easy to discuss arts and sports with him.

Many artsy monuments were created for Lagos@50 but people feel that such may not be sustained since a new government is about to take over. How would you react to that?

First, government is a continuum and we are thankful that it is not a different party coming to power in Lagos State. The governor-elect has been a part of the government in different capacities so he understands the developmental goal of the state and it is not likely that he would deviate from those things that make Lagos the number one state. It would be a continuation of what Governor Ambode did, just like he (Ambode) continued from where Babatunde Fashola (former governor of the state) stopped. It was Fashola that began the Lagos Countdown and Ambode expanded it. Fashola built Freedom Park but we use it and still maintain the place. I think that the next administration would not just continue what we have done but expand the vision. Even the governor-elect said that they would not only key into all what we have done but expand it. He made this statement when the President came (to Lagos).

Why were you moved from the Ministry of Information and Strategy to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture?

In my estimation, I think the Ministry of Information and Strategy had been stabilised to an extent that if you like, you can say that we were on autopilot. You will recall that at the time, tourism had become so big that everybody was talking about Lagos as far as tourism was concerned. At the time, there was no replacement for the commissioner that had left, in my opinion; maybe the governor felt that he wanted the same level of seriousness and competitiveness that we had brought to the information and strategy ministry to be given to tourism, arts and culture and I would say that we achieved that because that was when we said we should have a calendar of events of what the state would do every month for different things for the first time anywhere in Africa. Now everyone is copying us. I think the governor wanted a trusted and capable hand that was part of the ideas that are now germinating as far as project THEAS is concerned.

But some people feel that your predecessor, Folarin Coker, had ego clashes with the governor and that was why he was removed. Is that true?

No; not really. He was not the only one that left; about four people also left. I did not come to the tourism ministry till after a year. If the idea was to replace him I would have been brought here immediately, but there was no need for that. I do not think that the governor was looking for a replacement until he felt that the level tourism ministry was reaching at the time needed a firm hand to handle his vision. OLF (One Lagos Fiesta) was Folarin Coker’s idea and the governor bought into it. They are very close. It could happen that there were issues but I do not think that those issues had anything to do with who replaces who. In any case, those issues are now behind them and they are good buddies.

The governor’s tenure is almost over and you would have to vacate your office. How do you feel about that?

Nobody signs to do two terms with any governor. Even if the governor had got the ticket for a second term in office, I don’t think anyone would have been guaranteed to serve with him for the second term. A few people might but you do not sign up to do two terms. Some people prefer to work from outside, some prefer to do one term and choose to step down. I do not access the fact that the governor did not get a second term in a literal manner; however, as human beings, it is disappointing considering the enormity of the job that the governor had done. From the assessment of everyone, you would see that his competence was never in doubt. If there were areas that were pointed out that he needed to work on, I think lessons have been learnt and even the governor recently said that he is a lot wiser. There is always a lot involved in matters like this and what should be of consolation is the fact that his competence is not in doubt and he is being celebrated for having immensely contributed to Lagos in the past four years. What this means is that four years is enough to contribute to the state. With what Ambode has done, I think that his four years would be a landmark for generations to come as far as Lagos State administration is concerned. Maybe ‘bad’ things happen to good people for a reason so that you can be channelled to a route that you did not think might come early.

How did you feel when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, visited Lagos?

It was a birthday gift for me personally. I think President Macron came to Lagos on July 5, and my birthday is on the 9th. I could not have got a better birthday gift. Also, I knew him when he was in Nigeria, he was in Abuja but he often visited Lagos. I was closer to his friend, David Evette, and some other people. I was a young line editor at the time with Comet Newspaper when he was around. When he became the finance minister of France, I used to tell people I know him. Then he became president and all of a sudden he said he wanted to come to Nigeria but he would prefer to stay in Lagos.

We began to plan with the French Embassy to lodge the president at Eko Hotels and Suites but they told us that the president would not want that, instead he would prefer to be at the Shrine. I was the happiest person on earth. The biggest validation of ‘destination Lagos’ that we had done in Lagos for the past years, of Lagos being sold to the world, was Macron’s visit. He crystalised it. I know of the gains that we have had since his visit to the state. I know that Christiane Amanpour’s son came to Lagos for a private visit after Macron had come. What the young chap said was that his mother told him that he must visit the Shrine because that was the place that the French president visited. The Namibian president came to Lagos and the governor hosted him but the Namibian president asked Ambode why he was hosting him on the Lagos Island instead of the Shrine. He said was it because he was not Macron and that if the French president could visit the Shrine, why wouldn’t he. It was a defining moment for Lagos and Nigeria. Yes, France won the FIFA World Cup but we won the ‘pre-world cup’ with Macron’s visit. The Shrine has become to the world one of the most iconic event centres on account of what happened with Macron.

One striking thing happened: Governor Ambode’s personal car has become iconic. Normally they fly the cars of visiting presidents to the country they want to visit. Even though Macron had his fleet of cars waiting, he chose to ride in Ambode’s car, the Audi. The car took him around. Less than one year after, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos. Of course, he had his presidential fleet which took him to different places. He later came to the Lagos House where he had lunch; it should be noted that no President has been to the Lagos House in the past 20 years so his visit was historic. Somehow, curiously, he could not ride back in his car so he had to change to the same car that Macron used. It is a case of two presidents and one car in one year. That is something awesome. For us, Macron’s visit would always remain a watershed visit. It is not likely that we would have something bigger than that. It is a form of endorsement and therefore we should be grateful. For me to have had the privilege to co-organise the visit was very fulfilling. I think that if you begin to count the successes and accomplishments of the contribution of what I have been able to make to this administration, the Macron visit is one of them.

Source: Punch

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Lagos Matters

Imota rice mill to produce 650 bags of rice per hour – LASG

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The Lagos State government has said that the Imota rice mill, when completed, will produce 650 bags of 50kg rice per hour.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, said this while on a tour the site of the mill, to assess the progress of work.

Olusanya, in a statement issued on Thursday in Lagos, expressed satisfaction with the progress of work at the 32 metric-tonnes-per-hour capacity rice mill.

She said that when completed, the mill would be the world’s fourth largest and the biggest in Africa.

The special adviser said that agriculture and food security were important components of the T.H.E.M.E.S Development Agenda of the state government for making Lagos a 21st-century economy.

She expressed government’s commitment to completing the mill, in order to meet the rice demand of the state and indeed, the nation.

”The mill is situated on a landmass of 8.5 hectares of land and each of the two production lines has a capacity of 16 metric tonnes and will produce 650 bags of 50kg rice per hour,” Olusanya said.

She added that the mill was designed, constructed and its equipment installed by local contractors, which underscored the state government’s confidence in the capacity of indigenous engineers.

The governor’s aide said that over 250,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created from the mill when completed, while increased economic activity was also expected at Imota, Ikorodu and the state in general.

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Lagos Matters

Governor Sanwo-Olu presents N1.168 trillion budget for 2020

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Friday, November 8th presented a budget of N1.168 trillion to the Lagos State House of Assembly for approval for the 2020 fiscal year.    

The proposed budget is to be funded by a projected Total Revenue of N1.071 trillion and a deficit amounting to N97.53 billion. The budget size is higher than the 2019 budget by 34%. Capital Expenditure amounts to N723.75 billion while the Recurrent Expenditure is N444.81 billion, giving a 62:38 capital to recurrent ratio.

According to Sanwo-Olu, “This, in our view, is strong for development. We have placed an increased focus on wealth creation where we will take deliberate steps in courting a partnership between our people and various development institutions.  

“In line with this, we have provided N11.8bn as counterpart funds in preparation for various social impact schemes. In addition, we have made provisions for N7.1bn this year, to provide for industrial hubs, parks, graduate internship programs and virtual markets for artisans. This is in support for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises which are the engines for both economic and employment growth.  

“It is equally proposed that a total of N167.81 billion of the Recurrent Expenditure shall be applied towards personnel costs and other staff-related expenses. This represents 22.02% of the proposed Total Revenue, which is within the acceptable wage policy of 25% of Total Revenue, and includes a provision for the new minimum wage.  

“The budget deficit of N97.53 billion will be financed by both internal and external loans. Since revenue generation is the spine of any budget, this budget supports investment in our revenue generating agencies. This budget seeks to aggressively invest in and develop our education, health and other physical infrastructure sectors. Although our capital spent on works and infrastructure was just N31 billion as at September 2019, as against the 2019 budget proposal of N78 billion, it is our intention to spend N115 billion in 2020,” he said.

The governor said Education would see a significantly increased capital budgetary allocation of N48 billion, an increase of 60% over the 2019 provision of N30 billion, adding that “we must improve the standard and relevance of our education outcomes to our industries. We will work together with our Local governments to strengthen early child education and teachers training/administration, leveraging technology.

“Similarly, in healthcare, we have provided for a capital expenditure of N33 billion, compared to the 2019 budget proposal of N21 billion. We will ensure that our primary health care institutions remain active and attractive to the primary health care needs of our people. Lagos belongs to us all; we will continue therefore to drive partnerships with the private sector in promoting health services within our institutions.  

“Given the perennial challenges of flooding in the metropolis, we have tripled the capital budget provision to tackle this from N3 billion in 2019 to N9 billion in 2020,” he added.

Sanwo-Olu stated that wider consultation was made in the three senatorial districts, in addition to taking memoranda and feedback from stakeholders’ meetings organized by members of the House within their constituencies, which were also attended by Cabinet members, adding that the 2020 Budget would be supported by a Performance Management System that would ensure that, by December 2020,” we shall achieve an optimal budget implementation when compared with previous years. This is in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability in the management of public finances.”

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Lagos Matters

Oniru Throne: Abisogun Family Members At War Over Succession!

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Less than 40 days after the death of a first class monarch in Lagos State, the Oniru of Iruland. His Royal Majesty, Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru, serious war has reportedly broken out in Abisogun Ruling House over his successor.

It will be recalled that the respected and powerful monarch died in late September, 2019 at the age of 82 after a brief illness.Under the reign of the monarch, Iru land, the host of the highbrow Oniru and Victoria Island, became a mega location with investments and buildings worth hundreds of billions of naira.

We were reliably informed that a tussle has broken down over the throne with many candidates showing interest in the coveted seat.Some of those said to have shown interest in the obaship seat included Wasiu Ogunbambi, Jamiu Adelakun and Saliu Abisogun.Others included Hakeem Ajasa, Fabayi clan, Giwa Otto clan amongst several others.

Reliable sources informed us that lobby has started in high places as some of the candidates were said to have circulated their curriculum vitae among the kingmakers and have started talking to top officials of the Lagos State Government in-charge of chieftaincy affairs in the state.It was gathered that the matter has torn the family apart as none of the candidates was willing to step down for another.Our sources added that what baffled watchers of events in the area is the fact that the crisis broke out just few weeks after the death of the Oba of the town.

“It was only on Friday November 1, 2019 that we did the final burial of Oba Idowu Abiodun Oniru in Eko Hotel. So it is surprising that the candidates for the throne could not even wait for some time before they start fighting over the stool.”Were they waiting for the Oba to die? We all know that the throne is lucrative, but that does not mean that they should start fighting immediately. It is uncalled for,” said a source.

It was however, gathered the kingmakers have started necessary consultations both traditionally and officially, and that the needful would be done in due course, while those interested in the office “have been cautioned to allow the people in-charge due their work so that Iru land would have the right traditional ruler at the right time.”

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